Managing heat stress in livestock

Emily Wilmes, University of Minnesota Extension

Increase available water, Improve air flow, provide shade and control insects

All summer long, farmers hear about heat stress and heat abatement.  There’s a lot to keep track of, so here are four quick tips to make summer easier on your livestock:

1. Increase available water. As the temperature approaches heat stress levels, adding extra water sources is a must. Animals will increase their consumption in these conditions and crowding can occur further driving heat stress issues. If the resources are available, also consider adding sprinklers.

2. Improve air flow. Particularly inside barns, adequate air flow can be sparse. Increasing air flow is necessary to decrease the effect of heat on your herd. Adding fans and opening the sides of barns (adding nets or curtains) are two simple ways to increase air movement to your livestock.

3. Provide shade from direct sunlight. If animals are grazed or pasture-based, and no buildings or trees are available for shade, constructing a netted area to block the sun can be a viable option. In addition when shade is provided over the feeding area, it is easier to maintain proper feed intake during hot summer days.


4. Control insects. Biting insects, such as flies can further stress livestock and interrupt their cooling. If housing or pastures tend to draw insects to animals during times of heat stress, provide proper insecticides or consider removing the herd from the area.

It’s important to keep in mind that each farm is different; so make sure your heat stress abatement plan fits your operation and your herd. If not handled properly, heat stress can have multiple physical and economic effects on your livestock.